Monday, August 31, 2015


So. Since I am now - once again - getting back into the groove of this writing thing, I feel the need to write about where I've been and what I've been up to. Basically, I need to bring myself up to speed in writing about this past year. Yeah, yeah - I lived it, but I've worked in higher education long enough to know the Golden Rule: if it's not documented, it never happened. 

A Pulpit By Any Other Name

Back in October 2014, right about the time my blog went radio silent, the local church where I'd been attending (admittedly off and on) pretty much since we moved to South Carolina found themselves without a full-time pastor. Since I had in the past stepped in to insure there was no vacancy in the pulpit on given weeks, I was asked if I would step in again, but this time stay in. On a week to week basis. 

These people were (and still are) my friends. There was no way I was going to say no. 

For all the times I spoke at New Hope, I fought against the idea of labeling myself "Pastor." When asked what title I wanted on the bulletin (not so much so people could have a title to call me; I was always referred to by my name or "The Bald Guy"), I opted for the moniker "Interim Teaching Pastor." It summed up what could have been my time in the pulpit along with what I saw myself as: a teacher. I saw myself as a DEAD POETS SOCIETY era Robin Williams crossed with VELVET ELVIS era Rob Bell, with a pinch of CHAGALL GUEVERA era Steve Taylor for good measure. 

Basically, a non-conformist, educated, teller of stories that could foster spiritual growth, with an openness to all, and love free of judgment through the lessons I taught, with a passion for people over theology.

So, in other words, kinda like Jesus.

Titles within churches are tricky. I can be and am comfortable with the label of "Youth Pastor" or "College Pastor," because (1) they sound comparatively more like they belong to someone who might be cool to be around, and (2) they make me sound younger than I am. Outside of church, these titles don't create as much of a negative social flinch in some people; again, those with these jobs traditionally can be and tend to be less stuffy and proper in many regards. 

Part of my reluctance in taking on the name of "Pastor" stemmed from my insecurity of my theological lineage. I don't have the MDiv to go along with the name. My ordination comes from the same basis as the Apostles (that is to say, none). My "proper" church pedigree doesn't exist. And while I love being a spiritual mutt, with respect to those who have done due diligence in obtaining the proper credentials, I felt awkward about taking a title I didn't feel I had earned. 

But as I came to see and feel in the eyes and hearts of my people, the people at New Hope, I was a pastor. I am a pastor. A messenger of faith, hope, and love. And whatever hang up I had on the name, I needed to get the hell over it. I was there for them, not for a name I gave myself because of my insecurities. 

And being their pastor made me feel special. Because I challenged myself, week in and out, to be as transparent as possible, to teach what they needed and not what I wanted to talk about, and to be the first among equals. And I can only hope I was as good for them as they were for me. 

A Blog Backlog

Unlike other pastors who have "study hours" in their offices in the church, my study hours were conducted during nap times while Eli slept. My bi-vocational life as a stay-at-home dad/pastor was so rock star it defies description. As such, something had to give. I mean, there are only so many hours in the day to cook breakfast, fix coffee, do laundry, clean, vacuum, play, go grocery shopping, break up sibling fights, run to Target, go to parks, fix lunch, explain why we are not having grilled cheese again, play, clean, do dishes, put a toddler down for a nap, play board games quietly, have a snack, prep dinner, break up another fight, and do research on a sermon. 

So, I drew the curtains on the windshield for a little while. 

But..I kept writing. Sermons. Ideas. Outlines. So I have a load of stuff to edit, adapt, and load up. I could upload the notes from my sermons after I rewrite them so they're not so crazy scattered to the untrained eye. It's what all the cool pastors do. ...actually, they probably have someone they pay to do that, but neither Kai nor Eli are eligible for employment yet, so...

So folks from New Hope? You'll be able to read my sermons and actually see what I was talking about. Trolls? You'll be able to read my sermons and actually flame me over what you see as theological impurities. Everybody else? You'll be able to read my sermons and actually see if I am capable of a deep thought or three. 

My email address is linked above at the CONTACT ME section. 

But don't worry - I'll also write about beer and my kids as well. Just in due time. First, we have to set up this new house...

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Emphasis of Stress

I'll admit it: the allure of the simplicity of living in a trendy "tiny home" is massively appealing. Every time I would watch yet another one of those episodes on television where they show the design and implementation of transforming a residence into "the perfect" home for a couple, I would think, "Yeah, we could totally do that."


See, almost without exception, the couples who move into these tiny homes are retired or have kids who have already gone off to college. I can tell you from first-hand experience of just two weeks (and counting) of living in a one-room hotel room with a kitchenette, two double beds, and less square footage than a two-car garage with a two year old and a six year old?

Tiny houses must suck if you have kids.

No Migration Without Representation

Ashley recently accepted a position at Lehigh University in PA, so two weeks ago we packed up all our crap in SC and loaded it onto a moving van bound for our new home. Only...we didn't have a home quite yet.

You see, we have lived in University Housing for our entire married life. Our kids don't know life outside of a residence hall apartment or house adjacent to a university. This will be the first time I am going to be responsible for such joyful homeowner experiences like cutting the grass. 

Moving to a new state for a job for Ashley has in some ways become a thing for me: first it was Miami, then SC, and now PA. I don't have an issue at all with moving for her job; as a matter of fact, it's my pleasure to do so. I want her to be happy and fulfilled with her job. She's beyond amazing at what she does, and from what I can tell from Lehigh thus far, it's going to be the best (to date) professional and personal experience she has ever had in a job. ...except at UGA, where she met me. 

We made the conscious decision to literally drive out on faith, hoping that we would find a home in a good school district for Kai that met our needs as a family (in other words: TWO BATHROOMS). We naively decided that we could stay in an extended stay hotel for as long as it might take, so we could get "the perfect" anti-tiny home to live in.

And we may have found it. As of this writing, we still haven't closed on the house yet. The negotiations and counter offers have taken on NATO-level proportions. Hopefully the closing will happen in the next week or so and we can have physical keys to use instead of card keys like this place utilizes.

We Should Have Diamonds Any Day Now

But here's the reality: until we have someplace to be able to literally stretch our legs out, we are spending more intentional time together as a family than we have in the two years since Eli was born. This isn't a bad thing, per se. We have initiated a new family tradition of thirty minutes at the end of the day of laying on the beds (pushed together to make them more accommodating for sleep) and tickling each other and just laughing. We are testing the limits of my culinary expertise by eating meals prepared in a microwave, range top, and a toaster oven. We are limited in exposure to TV thanks to the dozen channels offered on the hotel's system.

The downside is that there is no time away. No room to breathe. No "me" time for any of us. (Case in point: I'm writing this at 4:00 AM)

This has made Eli a bit more fussy than usual. He loves his brother, but in SC, he could just take a toy to play with on the couch away from Kai if he needed to.

This has made Kai a bit more frustrated than usual. He can't read by himself, he doesn't have room to get some of his manic energy out, and I feel bad for him every day that he has to sit quietly (to the best of his ability) and color, play a game on my iPad (don't judge), or do some kind of activity in relative silence while his brother takes a nap in the afternoon about a dozen feet away.  

This has made me...a jerk.

My temper has gotten the best of me. I've been angry, short with the boys and with Ashley, tense to the point where I'm sure I grind my teeth at night, and I have lost my temper on more than one occasion. 

I'm having to constantly entertain, constantly come up with places to go and things to do, constantly serve as referee between these two, and not have one break in the midst of it all. Eli has been off his sleep rhythm at night for two weeks now, which frustrates both me and Ashley; once he finally falls asleep, we're both so exhausted we can't even see straight. We've been less than kind to each other so much so that I made the joke to someone for a housewarming gift, Ashley and I would give each other couples therapy and/or time on a firing range.

A lot of what has frustrated me and made me act like Hyde to my usual Jekyll comes with the package in being a stay at home parent. I'm quite used to being a children's entertainer/executive chef/housekeeping staff. That's not the problem in the least. 

Every outside force acting upon our usual ebb and flow of living with and loving each other has changed. And while it is temporary, it's the reality of the here and now. And in my naïveté, I thought we could change ZIP codes as easily as we could change our lives. 

I wasn't prepared for the emotional claustrophobia of being no less than six feet from my family at any given moment. I wasn't prepared for how Kai and Eli might react to the situation. I wasn't prepared to take their needs into account of how they might process through overly acting out with every incident that makes them unhappy (like when a dog from the Paw Patrol cartoon uses a tool they disagree with and they throw the remote across the room) that EVERYTHING has changed.  

Once we have a residence with a driveway, we can physically and psychologically stretch out. I don't believe my giving into the Dark Side has caused an irreparable rift between myself and either of the boys. There's a bittersweet beauty in that I can and have talked to Kai about my anger, and I have had to show that dad has feet of clay and needs to apologize and make amends just like we tell him he needs to. There's a lot of forced honesty and transparency this adventure has bestowed upon our little foursome.   

We're gonna make it. We're going to be better for it on the other side of this experience.

I'm just going to need a lot of wrinkle cream and hair dye for my beard. 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Thinking on Thanks

I am thankful...for the decades of memories I got to share with my mom. Some bad, some good, but all woven into the threads that bound us together. Family is a complicated beast, and Lord knows our relationship was a complex one. But at the end of the day, there were more hugs than shouts. 

I am thankful...for the countless miles traveled in the RAV4, for the late-night trips with the windows down keeping me awake, for the journeys with both my boys, for the Christmas trees strapped with salty language to the roof, for the safety and comfort it brought.

I am thankful...for the opportunities granted to me - unlicensed and unordained - by New Hope, to stand and speak my heart. I found a passion that I never knew existed, hidden under what I thought was my desire. The smiles, laughs, and open hearts allowing me to be me have left an indelible mark of joy.

I am thankful...for those who have taken my words and gotten something from them. For those who saw something in my scribbles and tangents and felt them better than I gave them credit for and deserving of a wider audience: Ashley. Lindsey. Adam (the man). Scott. Darrell. Alise. Your faith gave me courage to keep writing. And though the volume of my writing was lessened this year, the fire has not died.

I am the craft beer community here in Columbia (and beyond), for amazing days and nights of laugh-filled memories, tastes of rare delights I never knew existed, and for letting me find friendships I didn't think possible. Shawn (always first). Julian. Travis. Nick. Wes. Joseph. Matt. Matthew. Ashley. Josh. Tyler. Ben. Andrew. I raise a full heart to you all.

I am thankful...for the decades/lifetime of memories contained within four-color theaters of imagination. Our journey is nearing its completion, and my closets will be emptier without you, but your contribution to my intellect, creativity, and personality will live on.

I am thankful...for Kai. For half a decade of teaching me to be a better person. For letting me understand what love feels like. For letting me be a part of you as you grow, learn, and take the world on.

I am thankful...for Eli. For endless dances, for laughter and smiles that make me heart so full it feels as if it will burst apart. For redemptive parenting. For holding my hand as you sleep and as you lead me on journeys where we will go together.

I am thankful...for Ashley. For without whom I could not breathe. For without whom, my life would have been a series of events devoid of meaning and depth. For the laughs, the fights (good and bad), the ways you tolerate, love, and help me to grow into myself.

I'm just thankful. For that next cup of coffee in the morning, because that means a new morning has come.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A Palindromic, Tribonacci, Happy Number Birthday

I see you over there, calendar. Littered with hash marks, ticking off the days. In what feels like the blink of an eye, another year will be here.

The years that have preceded you have each come with their own little earthquakes. Really. From 18 until now, I can look back and see one - if not more - major seismic shifts that hit with annual regularity. Some good, some heartbreaking, some pushes in the right direction, some free falls off a cliff.

Each year a mile marker on this journey of life. The ones at the start are still somewhat pristine, their innocence never having weathered a major storm and becoming tarnished. The ones that lie directly behind me, however, have chips, scratches, and show the sign of having stood in the midst of chaos for a year.

They all have strong roots. That's why they - and I - have never fallen. They are planted firmly in the ground.

My journey has taken me to this point where there are an equal number of miles to go that lie before me as what lie behind me, if not with the possibility of less before me than behind. And that's okay. It's not scary. It's a challenge to take those remaining miles and make of them something amazing. Something spectacular, to be found in the mundane every day rituals of life.

Every smile needs to count. Every moment of choosing peace over frustration or anger needs to count. Every moment when I have the chance to play on the floor with my family needs to count. Every quiet moment on the couch at night needs to count. Every meal I fix with a flourish, ignoring recipes and directions, needs to count. Every leaf I see falling, every sunrise and sunset I view, every breeze of wind that stirs the ground before me needs to count.

Every beer I enjoy. Every word I write. Every sentence I utter. These should count only if with friends and family who count. They should not be for my glory, but for my community.

Forty-four isn't a scary age. Trying to mentally see that many candles on a cake is, but that's why I like cupcakes.

Each one counts. Each one is unique, each one is to be tasted separately.

Like every day in life.

So raise a pint with me. Raise a mug of coffee with me. Raise your eyes. Raise your heart.

And count.


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

You're There, Right?

Every night, as I read Kai to sleep, I always ask him to get in his "sleep position:" laying still, eyes closed, and snuggled under the covers. When I read him a book with pictures in it, I always promise him that I'll read the words first, and then he look to see the pictures after I finish each page. But if I read a book with little to no pictures, he is theoretically supposed to lie there, peaceful and still, until he drifts off. But even though he can hear the sound of my voice not two feet away from him, he will on occasion open his eyes as I am reading to him.

It's as if he needs to check and see if I have left him.

"You're there, right?"

Eli has no fear. As a toddler, he is invincible, immortal, and has no understanding of how that as he propels his tiny frame like a wobbly rocket, he could easily lose his sense of balance and face plant. He gathers sticks bigger than he is with reckless joy. He tries to climb ladders, chairs, and out of his crib with a surety that he's got this. The only thing that stymies him is his mortal enemy: the stair. It cracks me up that he can be running at full speed, and as soon as he hits a stair - be it to go up or down - he stops, and without even looking behind him, sticks his hand up in the air for me.

It's as if he knows I've been with him this whole time, and he has faith I'm going to be right there next to him to help lift him up. 

"You're there, right?"

As my child-like faith gave way to the cynicism of my 20s and early 30s, I stopped looking around and holding my hands up. I felt like the Voice had been silenced and the Presence was no longer there - if it ever had been there in the first place. It is only now, after struggles, stumbles, and ending my attempt to be someone I'm not supposed to be, that I know. I know that the Voice I thought muted was only drowned out by my screams. I know that if I had raised my hand to grasp a Presence, that I would have swatted it away anyway, thinking I could do this on my own.

Now I know. That even when I don't hear a Voice, it's there anyway.

Now I know. That even when I don't feel a Presence, it's there anyway.

And that when I ask, it is less a question of doubt or needing reassurance than it is a simple checking in with a Friend Who is listening to and watching me.

"You're there, right?"

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

The Eyes Have It (Part Two)

(Click here for Part One, written about two years ago. The more things change, the more they stay the same...)

Now having been a stay-at-home dad for two kids/five-plus years at this point, I'm fairly certain I have worked out what one of my favorite parts about being with my kids 24/7 is.

No, it's not the wizardry of coming up with innumerable crafts/activities to engage them so that the television stays off all day. No, it's not my personal dress code of cargo shorts, shirts of questionable wrinkles, and an unshaved face. No, it's not learning to master the art of cutting raw chicken while a toddler plays around your feet (although I am pretty much a badass at that bit).

It's kneeling down, getting on their level with them, and seeing the world through their eyes.

Eli is just now starting to explore his world, and man. This kid has some beautiful eyes. So much so that I've started nicknaming him "Sparkles" when I play with him.

Because they sparkle all the time
They look up at me with wonder how I got so far up there when I'm standing up.

They radiate when I'm down on his level with him.

They squint when he laughs while climbing on me while I lay down on the floor.

They get wide when I say the words "food," "balloon," or "dinosaur."

They manage to go from active to droopy in .000052 seconds when nap time rolls around.

They get focused and piercing when he's upset.

They look at me like "You get this, right?" when he talks in baby talk to me.

They explode wildly open when he gets tickled.

They become calm when he is studying an object for the first time.

They stay perfectly still and unmoving when he meets someone for the first time.

They close with peace and serenity when he's laying in my arms asleep.

And his eyes help me. Not in the sense that they can reverse the prescription on my glasses (darn it), but they help me to look at the world in the way he does.

With hope. Love. Openness. Trust. Excitement.

And fun.

Now if you'll excuse me, we have a dinosaur hunt to go on.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Brewery or Church?

The imagery and language associated with it has become so ingrained into the mainstream culture that it is practically a part and parcel of Americana by now. As an institution, it rose to prominence in the 1950s, leaving us with the lingering vision of homogenized, Caucasian, middle-class, smiling faces who have a great time enjoying the experience with friends.  

If you grew up understanding the culture, you were likely born into it. What was your parents became yours. It was the norm. For decades, there was basically only one style to choose from. One version, although, there were variants of names and brands. But once you came of age, by and large you paid allegiance to what you were raised in.


It began as a grassroots movement. A few pioneers who felt their palates were left wanting after they drank what was told to them was the accepted style. So they broke away. They took the methodology used by the mainstream to refine, augment, and craft something wholly fresh and new, yet familiar.

The large, prominent keepers of the mainstream at first thought little of these upstarts. But then they began to gain footholds in more regions across the country, regions long thought too conservative for such a brash, bold change of venue. So the mainstream did what it could and felt it needed to: it tried to invalidate these new offerings by questioning quality control, as many of these leaders in the revolution were not trained in the proper schools or by the correct teachers; they said what these "kids" offered for you to partake of was not as good, not as true, as theirs; and they questioned that if what they offered for so long was that bad, how had it lasted in prominence for so long?

"Control and suppression," replied the upstarts as they continued their march.


These upstarts have in many ways become the norm. The mainstream still maintains dominance, but that dominance is eroding year by year. Because questions are good, healthy, and lead to understanding instead of group-think.


What was once started in love has for some become business. A revolution of passionate creative zealots has become a lucrative money-making opportunity for many. Instead of mainstream culture, we now have a culture of mainstreamed independents, complete with conventions, paraphernalia, and sometimes less-than-friendly competition for attention. As someone plants or starts a new venue out of love and passion, someone else plants or starts a similar venue solely out of a desire to make a profit.

Those who have fled the mainstream to flock to the independents have left a gaping hole in some of the larger entities; not a mortal wound, but deep enough that it hurts them at the core of who and what they are.


Thousands still hold allegiance to the comparatively weaker in taste mainstream. It is massed produced, cheaply packaged from a centralized location - but it is familiar. And change can be scary and leave some with a bad taste on their tongue.


The passionate zealots pour out their heart and soul into a culture they see a need to pour into. To connect with the people who share their passion at a deeper, more personal level. To fill them with something wholesome and crafted with love.


The mainstream and the small stream have those who seek only to better themselves and line their pockets. They focus on numbers, the bottom line, and who can be the dominant force. If they crush someone smaller, so be it. If what they offer is ultimately left as ash on the tongue, so be it.



Or is there really a difference?

Let's have a drink and talk about it.